KU News Release

Dec. 14, 2011
Contact: Jack Martin, Office of Public Affairs, 785-864-7100

KU honorary degree recipient: Robert J. Dole

Robert J. Dole

For the degree of Doctor of Laws: Robert J. Dole, for notable contributions as a statesman and advocate for the rights of all

The major chapters of Bob Dole’s life are well-known to us all. He grew up near Russell, Kan., during hard times. A loan of $300 enabled him to enroll at KU in 1941—missing part of his economics class due to his milk delivery job. As a 19-year old, he enlisted in the Army’s Reserve Corps and was called to active duty in 1943. By March 1945 he was ducking artillery shells as a member of the 85th Mountain Regiment in northern Italy, only to be felled by a sniper’s bullet that left him lying paralyzed on the ground for 10 hours before he was evacuated. For the next 39 months he fought a different battle, supported by a gift from his neighbors back home in Russell of $1,800 to help pay his medical bills. Returning to Kansas, he earned a bachelor’s and a law degree from Washburn University in 1951. While still a student, he was elected to the Kansas Legislature in 1950. Moving back to Russell, he was elected Russell County attorney for four terms, and in 1960 he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for eight years. First elected to the U. S. Senate in 1968, he was an advocate for Kansas farmers and for feeding the hungry, and for the rights of the disabled, the disenfranchised and the oppressed.

Despite his fierce loyalty to the Republican Party, he reached out across the House and Senate aisles, forging bipartisan links in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as its extension in 1982, and the 1983 Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday bill. He found common cause with Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan to ensure the survival of Social Security in 1983. Together with Sen. George McGovern, he created the Women and Infant Children nutrition program, as well as the International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program to fight child hunger. With Sen. Birch Bayh, he restructured how universities do business by allowing nonprofit organizations to retain title over inventions and other intellectual properties that arise from federally funded research.

After losing the 1996 presidential election, he appeared as a television spokesman, political commentator and guest star on popular programs. He authored two books on presidential wit as well as “One Soldier’s Story” about his WWII experiences. His commitment to bipartisanship continued: He delivered the inaugural lecture to dedicate the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, founded the Bipartisan Policy Center along with former Sens. Howard Baker, Tom Daschle and George Mitchell, served with Donna Shalala as co-chair of the Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, and joined with former President Clinton as co-chair of the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, raising $120 million for the families of victims of 9-11 attacks. And he served as chairman and principal fundraiser of the national campaign to construct the National WWII Memorial.

Dole was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Medal for “outstanding contributions to animal welfare” for his efforts in 1974 to outlaw Army experiments on animals resulting in needless or excessive suffering, the 1978 amendments to the Humane Slaughter Act and his 1985 efforts to improve Standards for Laboratory Animals. He was awarded the Golden Medal of Freedom from the President of Kosovo for his efforts to protect democracy. Dole received the American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal, the U.S. Military Academy’s Thayer Award, the French Legion of Honor medal, the Horatio Alger Award, the Defense Department’s Distinguished Public Service Award and the NCAA’s “Teddy” Award as a former varsity basketball player at Washburn. In 2008, he shared the World Food Prize with Sen. McGovern in recognition of their support for school-feeding programs. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton for his public service for turning “adversity to advantage and pain to public service.”

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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